6 Pittsburgh miniature train displays kids love at the holidays

The holidays bring so many beautiful sights. One favorite among many kids: Pittsburgh’s miniature train displays. Here are some wonderful ones you’ll want to see:

The Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum Holiday Show

It’s the time all Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum volunteers wait for each year – their holiday show comes just once a year, and it’s a fan favorite. Come see model trains and displays that showcase the Pittsburgh region for the holidays. On Friday evenings, their Steam at Twilight performance shows visitors what evenings used to be like in our once-smoggy steel city. This huge display spanning 6,500 feet of track includes 100 steam locomotives and 250 diesel engines pulling more than 2,000 cars. Tickets are priced affordably for families. More info on this display, located at 5507 Lakeside Dr. in Gibsonia, can be found here

train exhibit
Photo courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Railroad Museum.

The Miniature Railroad & Village at the Carnegie Science Center

’tis the season for the remarkable Miniature Railroad & Village at Carnegie Science Center. This sprawling display includes Pittsburgh region landmarks including Primanti’s, Kaufmann’s and even Fallingwater, and last year Gus & Yiayia’s ice ball cart was added. CSC boasts the largest train display in Western Pennsylvania, and it celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2019. Bring the kids to see hundreds of realistic animated displays showing how people lived, worked, and played in our region before 1940. New models are added to the 83-foot-by-30-foot exhibit each year, and it includes five O-gauge trains and more than 115 animatronics. The Miniature Railroad & Village is included with general admission ($11.95 for ages 3-12, $19.95 for grownups and $14.95 for seniors).

train displays
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Science Center.

Phipps Conservatory Garden Railroad: Bridges and Tunnels

This is the perfect year to visit the Garden Railroad at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of America’s first national park (Yellowstone National Park) and according to the folks at Phipps, it was the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 that increased visits at Yellowstone fivefold. This year’s Garden Railroad display, “Garden Railroad: Our National Parks” celebrates the beauty of our national parks and their distinct landscapes.

Kids will love interactive stations including one that shoots off the famous Old Faithful Geyser. You might get a glimpse of the elusive Bigfoot lurking in the foliage, as the passenger train that travels between a miniature representation of Denali Park Depot and snow-capped mountains. Kids will also discover the unique waterscapes of Everglades National Park and Tropical Forest Hawai’i, as well as a miniature recreation of the Tunnel Log from Sequoia National Park (try activating the touchless interactive station to watch a car drive through the tunnel).

This being Phipps, you’ll also find more than 3,500 real plants — including groundcovers, herbs, sedums, succulents, dwarf conifers and more — set within the train display. The Garden Railroad is included with general admission (starting at $11.95 for ages 2-18, $19.95 for grownups and $17.95 for seniors), and you can visit while checking out the Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show and Light Garden.

Photo courtesy of Phipps.

Ohio Valley Lines

Open through the first week of January, the Ohio Valley Lines model railroad museum is located in Ambridge at 1225 Merchant St. This year, they celebrate their 40th anniversary. Join the festivities by visiting their two model railroad displays, which have been expanded this year. You’ll also find raffle baskets and bargain prices on trains and train accessories in their “flea market” area. The group also offers membership to their model railroad club. Visit between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Requested donation: $6 for adults, $2 for kids 3-12 and free for kids 2 and under.

Photo courtesy of Ohio Valley Lines.

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

Open year-round, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is especially fun at the holidays. This year, Trolleys and Toy Trains takes place on the first three Fridays of December (Dec. 2, 9 and 16), with a beautiful display of Lionel toy trains. New this year: a festive I Spy challenge. And The Santa Trolley runs on weekends (update: we’re sad to report that the Santa Trolley is already sold out). Adimission is $13 for adults, $11 for kids ages 3 to 15 and free for those under 3. Find the Trolley Museum at 1 Museum Road in Washington, Pa.

Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

McKeesport Model Railroad Club

The McKeesport Model Railroad Club  annual open house is here and you still have time to catch it! On Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18, explore the 2,200-square-foot HO scale display that captures the 1950’s and watch the (fictional) Mon Yough Valley Railroad trains make their way through town and across mountain bridges.

Requested donations are $5 for adults, just $3 for kids 5 through 17, and free for kids 4 and under, members of the military and first responders (with valid ID) and scouts in uniform.

model trains
Photo courtesy of McKeesport Model Railroad Club.

Looking for more holiday things to do in Pittsburgh? Check out our guide to holiday lights displays you won’t want to miss during the holiday and our big guide to holiday events. And sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!